TRAVELLER AND GYPSY BAREKNUCKLE BOXING
To understand the reason for the organised fighting that takes place within the travelling Community you need to learn a little about the Travellers lifestyle, not just the hardships and predjudices they have suffered, but the traditions that they live by. Fighting often plays a large part of these traditions and while many may critisize they way they deal with Clan disputs everyone who supports Bareknuckle Boxing has to be thankful for the way Travellers have kept BKB in the limelight.
Words like Barbaric and brutal are falsely spewed across the tabloids and in reality shows from time to time but if anyone actually took time out and looked into this style of fighting they will see that its far from that. Honour and pride are words that i would use ,they have always fought with codes of conduct which includes no throws, eye gouging, hair pulling and each fighter has a fair play man who act as refreees to make sure that fighters make it a clean fight. I'll be adding articles, videos and write ups of most of the fights that have taken place, i hope this helps to create a fairer image, not only for Bareknuckle boxing but also for the lifestyle these men lead.
Below in no particular order are links to Youtube clips, photos and articles on the recognised fighters.
Perhaps one of the most well known Bareknuckle fighters of the 20th Century is Bartley Gorman and not only did he have a reputation as a fierce fighter inside the ring but a gentleman outside of it.
A great pose by Bartley, similar to that of the olden day bareknuckle fighters and a classic youtube clip.
Bartley Gorman - King of the Gypsies 'King of the Gypsies' is not a title that is simply inherited. Staffordshire-based bareknuckle fighter Bartley Gorman did his way - in his own words, "it is a title earned in blood, snot, sweat and gore".Bartley
Gorman was the most famous bareknuckle fighter of modern times. Gorman, who was enormously proud of his heritage, and who settled in his adopted home town of Uttoxeter in East Staffordshire, was feared and respected in equal measure.
When he won the title of Bareknuckle Champion of Great Britain and Ireland, aged 28, he was 6ft 1in and weighed 15½ stone.
Between 1972-1992, he reigned supreme in the world of illegal gypsy boxing.
During these years, he fought down a mineshaft, in a quarry, at horse fairs, on campsites, in bars and clubs and in the street, and even challenged infamous London brawlers Lenny McLean and Roy Shaw.
Attempted murder He even survived a brutal attempt on his life by a mob at Doncaster Races who were determined to end his reign.
Bartley became a living legend, and to a certain extent put the small market town of Uttoxeter on the map.
For Uttoxeter he was a bit of a 'a town treasure' and they even honoured Bartley by putting his name on their Millennium monument alongside such illustrious Staffordshire greats as Joseph Bamford, who founded JCB.
Not only was he renowned and feted in his own community, his reputation spread far and wide, even coming to the attention of Muhammed Ali, with whom he once sparred.
In fact, Ali was one of his heroes, and Bartley based much of his fighting traits on the boxing skills of 'The Greatest'.
Boxing family Bartley came from a rich heritage of fighters and many of his forefathers had been champion gypsy boxers before him.
In some ways, he felt that he was the natural successor to his great-grandfather Boxing Bartley - Ireland's King of the Tinkers in the 19th century - and his grandfather Bulldog Bartley - another unbeaten bareknuckle fighter.
After semi-retirement in 1992 (a bareknuckle fighter never fully retires!), Bartley settled to build his own house on the outskirts of Uttoxeter and for the remaining 10 years, was able to watch the rise of the next breed of gypsy fighters.
In January 2002, hundreds of gypsies from across the country came to the town for his funeral after he died from liver cancer, aged 57.
Biography Gorman's biography 'King of the Gypsies', written with the help of Peter Walsh, was completed just before Gorman's death.
Gorman tells an uncompromising but touching story of a man compelled by the weight of his own violent family history to fight and suffer pain.
The book reveals that the red-haired gypsy boy Bartley Gorman was only nine years old when he first witnessed the misery that violence brings.
Bartley saw his passive uncle killed before his very eyes by one punch thrown by a rogue showman.
In fact, much of the book is taken up with tales of brutal fights at fairs, racecourses, bars - anywhere travelling men met, argued and brawled.
The book 'King of the Gypsies' is published by Milo Books.
Bareknuckle 'sport' For gypsies, bareknuckle fighting was seen as a legitimate and acceptable sport: a form of expression.
As young boys today seek to emulate the skills of David Beckham, young gypsy boys would dream of being the champion boxer of their patch.
The biography even reveals the secret lineage of the gypsy champions and unveils unique photographs of the top fighting men of today.
Peter Walsh, who got to know Bartley during the last 18 months of his life, sums him up:
"He was a unique man, a one-off. He was lovely man with a wicked sense of humour but a streak of melancholy that never
Here are a few links for more info.
AN EXTRACT FROM BAREKNUCKLE FIGHTER.......By Bartley Gorman.
As an acomplished Bareknuckle fighter the image on the left is one that is shown in most articles when it comes to the life of this modern day icon of the sport. Although when he does fight he is an agressive man, outside of it, he is an articulate, caring and just normal everyday Family Man.
I've known James for around 3 years now, i've spent alot of time with him and as soon as you meet him any misconceptions about Bareknuckle fighters disappear really quickly.
A Gentleman through and through as many will vouch for, James is a great friend of mine and its easy to forget that this gentle giant is a true fighter and family and friends means so much to him.
Without a doubt his award winning Documentary and best seller book "Knuckle" have given people an insight into his life, as a fighter, and also away from the Bareknuckle Boxing.
Height………….6ft 2 inches
Nickname…….The Mighty Quinn
Question 1. Can you tell me what got you into fighting an what age did you start?
A. I started boxing at the age of 12-13, I had 12 amateur fights over a 3 year period losing my first and losing my last fight. I boxed for Dublin v London, Dublin County v other counties and I won the Dublin league, the counties league and the Ireland league After that my dad up and moved and took us to England to find work and at the age 16 i took up training as a Boxer. I had no more fights until June 1993 where I had my first bareknuckle fight which I won isnce then I’ve had a further 11 BKB fights winning them all, thank god.
Question 2. Are there any gloved boxers out there that you think will make a successful switchover to BKB?
A. It’s a million dollar question because we’ve got some very good ring boxers at the moment that I don’t believe would make it in BKB, whereas there’s some middle of the road fighters that would be perfect for the sport. This is because it’s all down to training; you’ve got to train yourself for BKB as it’s a different type of fighting.In gloved boxing they would train on the bag for say 5 x 3 or 10 x 3 minutes whereas in BKB we hit the bag for 35-45 minutes nonstop, this is to build up your stamina for the long haul and push your body to the limit, and t helps to pace yourself as well. It’s a different type of fighting and you need to train specially for BKB. People think once gloved boxers get towards the end of their career they will make the switch to BKB, I don’t believe this, what I predict is that within 4-5 years BKB will take over from Gloved boxing and some of the future stars will come from the travelling and settled community.Once the sport is sanctioned there are some great young fighters out there who can come forward and it’s a great opportunity as this sport is going no-where but forward. With some great venues and great management the future for the sport is huge.
Question 3. Who has been your hardest Opponent up to date?
A. I’ve had some very tough fights against the Nevins and the Joyce’s and some people have said,” James that was an eas one “, but there are no easy fights. I take no one for granted and some fights might look as though they are easy but it’s only because I’ve put the work in beforehand and prepared myself to the top of my ability, and if the opponents don’t, well that’s their problem. It’s not just having a great physique and training well that lets you succeed in BKB its having heart. It has to be your head and heart working together; I’ve known some great gloved boxers that have took up BKB and fell apart because the hearts not there, and you’ve either got it or you haven’t.
Question 4. Its common knowledge James and is shown in the film Knuckle that pride and honour play a huge part in BKB within the travelling community as regards to the fights that take place, how will this change when the sport becomes sanctioned and non-travellers are competing for money with travellers?
A. Pride and honour will always be there within the traveling community, each family will still want to be the top dog of an area, a borough and it will always be a means of settling feuds and arguments. In the next era of BKB when we have all types of fighters competing there will still be pride at stake whether it’s for a regional, national or world title as well as the prize money and belts that will be offered. Fans and fighters of BKB will come on board, and I look forward in the helping and organising of some great fights for the fans and followers of the sport. With the corruption, the politics and the amount of world champions in gloved boxing at the minute these are exciting times for us all involved.
Question 5. Is there a proposed follow up to the film/doc Knuckle and what are your plans for the future?
A. Well there are talks of a sort of follow up to Knuckle, I have plans and ideas that have been put on paper and I’m looking forward to working on this. Knuckle itself has been a great success and it is already at the cinemas in the States and is due to be released in Australia in Feb/March. I also have an Autobiography called “Knuckle” by Harper Collins which is due in the shops soon as well which will give an in-depth account of my life.
Question 6. Reading your last answer is this the way forward for you once you retire from the fight-game itself?
A. I have been really busy at the moment with such things as my book which is due out on 16 th Feb , knuckle and other projects; I’m also getting involved in the sanctioning of the sport of BKB and I’m working on bringing in some great sponsorship and organisations to propel BKB to the forefront of mainstream television. Ian palmer will also be working with me on some future projects I have in mind.
Question 7. You are generally regarded as the best BKB traveller out there, is there anyone at the moment that you think could make their own mark and take over this position once you retire?
A. Well since the film Knuckle was released it has certainly stopped a lot of the feuding that was happening but it has given the young fighters from both the traveller and settled communities encouragement to take up the sport and we should see some young blood coming into BKB with the promise of a good living available to those who compete. In my own large family My cousin young jj also seems to be doing well at the moment as well, and also there are some good fighters on my wife’s side of the family, so all in all its an exciting time ahead for all involved and fans alike.
Question 8. Can you tell the readers why they should watch BKB as opposed to other forms of fighting?
A. Well, Even though Bareknuckle Boxing has been going on for centuries it has remained underground for far too long, I will do my best and use all my contacts that I’ve gathered over the years to help bring this great sport forward and to get it properly controlled and regulated with a credible sanctioning body and be available to the public to view as a mainstream sport with some great venues and huge crowds.
Question 9. Finally James who do you regard as the best BKB fighter of all time at heavyweight?
A. My favourite two as its difficult just picking one has to be the great John l Sullivan and Dan Rooney.
Well thank you James for giving up your for the questions.
KNUCKLE THE BOOK, RELEASED 2012
Irish travellers live in a closed community. What we think we know about them is based on hearsay, rumour and stereotype. But not any more.Knuckle is the true story of James Quinn McDonagh – clan head and champion bare-knuckle fighter. It’s a journey from his grandfather’s horse-drawn caravan at the side of the road to the country lanes of Ireland where he stood, fists bloodied and bandaged, fighting a clan war that he never asked for.
Two men, two neutral referees, a country lane. No gloves, no biting, no rests. The last man standing wins, takes home the money, and more importantly, the bragging rights.
Caught in a brutal cycle of violence that has left men dead, houses burned and lives destroyed, James tells a story that opens up a hidden world – revealing why history repeats itself, and why he can never go home…
KNUCKLE THE DVD, RELEASED 2011
An epic 12-year journey into in the world of an Irish Traveller community, KNUCKLE takes us inside their brutal, secretive and exhilarating bare-knuckle fighting lives. Chronicling a history of violent feuding between rival families, the story focuses on two brothers as they fight for their reputations and the honour of their family name.
"Impressively and compulsively shot, Ian Palmer's film is a fascinating glimpse into a world kept usually very private and certainly just within the Travelling community." - Mark Adams, ScreenDaily.com
Ian Palmer the Director of Knuckle with the star of the Documentary....
In The Cambrian Mountains, Powys, lies a monument built by Uriah burton in memory of his Father Ernest Burton who was born 1895. Here is a newspaper article from 1963 with a great story of how the monument was built.
http://gypsytrailercaravans.webeden.co.uk/#/big-just/4533622715 or click on the photo of Uriah ( left)
Uriah was the uncle to Bartley Gorman and indeed champion Bareknuckle Boxer of Ireland and UK himself. I found a picture on Ebay of his rare book which had been for sale but then removed.